Archive for September, 2012

Class Blog #4 – Desiree’s Baby: The Importance of Historical Context

Kate Chopin’s writing, done in the lately 19th century, had several Realist characteristics, and focused on the the historical contexts of the time. Boundary crossing, primarily seen in the form of different classes or races intermixing, was a very common trait in her writing . Desiree’s Baby is a great example of this, as it focuses heavily on the idea of mixing class and race, and the problems it creates in society. I believe that to fully understand this work, one needs to familiarize themselves with the history of the area and the time period. I would like to particularly point out the character of Armand. Armand completely removes himself from the life of Desiree and the baby when he finds out that the baby is of mixed race. On the first reading, one immediately interprets Armand as the “villain” of the story. I think these 100 or so years that have passed have changed the meaning of the story and characters for us. Back then, being of mixed blood was definitely looked down upon. The region where Chopin wrote was struggling with issues of racism. Even though Armand is ironically shown to be the cause of the mixed child, I believe that the audience of the story at the time it was written would have identified differently with him, not necessarily viewing him as we do now. I believe that this is a feature with most Realist writing. Since Realism portrays such a vivid image of what is currently around the writer, it is hard to fully understand the work without thoroughly looking into the historical contexts in which it was written.

Class Blog #3 – Rousseau: From Enlightenment to Romanticism

After the French Revolution, the world entered what was known as the Romantic era. While it was a rather universal change in ideology, texts in particular saw a very drastic change from those found earlier. Where the Enlightenment era advocated equality, the Romantics preached individuality and originality. The Enlightenment texts generally were very formal and used lofty language. This was changed with Romanticism, as “romances were medieval tales of knighthood and adventure and ballads of the common people” (Longman 3). Basically, they were a return to the long forgotten past, similar to an adult reminiscing of  his childhood. I found this interesting, as it relates heavily to the ideals of Rousseau, a prolific writer in the Age of Enlightenment. He believed people were more innocent during their early years. Rousseau was also very influenced by the idea of nature. I believe it can be argued that Rousseau was not only an important figure in the Enlightenment, but also in Romanticism. His work, The Social Contract, is primarily looked at for its views regarding Enlightenment and issues of freedom that eventually led to the French Revolution. I believe The Social Contract can also be seen as a bridge not only to the French Revolution, but to Romanticism as well. Rousseau’s ideals and thoughts on nature and freedom should cement him as a pioneer of the Romantic movement.

Class Blog #2 – Encyclopédie

Citizen: Someone who is a member of a free society with many families, who shares in the rights of this society, and who benefits from these freedoms.

This definition was written in 1753 by Diderot himself for the Encyclopédie. Diderot’s “citizen” is very interesting when compared to the views Rousseau proposed about society in his Social Contract. I believe Diderot’s definition of a citizen reveals a personal bias; the “citizen” he speaks of has not already been established, it is simply Diderot voicing his views on how to better society. Diderot spoke of this so called “citizen” in 1753. Rousseau argued almost ten years later that society should be a coexistence of citizens who are equal, where these people were sovereign amongst themselves. Rousseau’s intentions and ideas are strikingly similar to those that Diderot had previously mentioned. This shows that even ten years after Diderot’s definition, it was not achieved. For this reason, I believe Diderot’s entry into the Encyclopédie to be biased. He may have been voicing an opinion that was agreed upon by many, but this ideal citizen was not born until well after the publication of the article.

Word Count: 189

Class Blog #1 – Robinson Crusoe

“If I did take this foolish step, God would not bless me” (Defoe 3).

This line, found in the early pages of Robinson Crusoe, is particularly intriguing, as it hints at moral values Defoe might have been trying to convey. From that line on, there are several other references to God and moral  implications. Crusoe constantly looks to God while in perilous situations, however, he quickly abandons this religious state when he is free of danger. Defoe not only added morals from a religious standpoint, but also included instances of human morality. While initially fond of Xury, Crusoe shows no compassion when selling him. He only later laments that he does not have Xury around for labor purposes. While the reader may question Crusoe’s morals, the character barely shows any emotion at all. I was curious as to what Defoe’s intentions were with Crusoe’s morals. At first, I assumed Defoe was trying to give the reader a message, a sort of religious and moral guide, showing the consequences that similar actions may lead to. While Crusoe does go encounter hardships on the island, he eventually becomes quite resourceful and successful. Crusoe does later show signs of human compassion, but also continues to show instances his earlier self. For the most part, I found Defoe’s intentions of morality to be rather ambiguous.